What Are The "Standards" For Spacing/Indents?

I’m curious to know what the general view is regarding paragraph and line spacing for print books and ebooks of different genres.

It seems like most nonfiction PDFs and ebooks have double spaces between paragraphs. Most fiction PDFs and Ebooks seem to have no extra space.

Some nonfiction print books do seem to have double spacing between paragraphs, but the standard seems to be no extra spaces.

I’m also curious about indents.

Should they be used in all cases? Why do some ebooks leave them out?

Are you referring to manuscripts or publication standards? For the former you just want to get those from your agent or publisher, there really is no universal standard, but the defaults out of Scrivener are pretty safe to follow (those in the States will likely want to change the font to TNR 12pt instead of Courier).

For publication, it’s much too early to say a solid e-publishing standard has appeared. Most publishers are just copying the original book’s layout, which is typically going to be a small first-line indent, no paragraph spacing, and a moderate amount of line-spacing (1.1 to 1.2-ish). For non-fiction, it depends on the audience. General topics, biographies, science for the laymen and that sort of thing often follow this same typesetting standard. Once you start getting into formal documents, papers, journal publications and academic work then you start running into strict style guides that all have their own peculiarities.

But the short answer is that there are no firm standards. This is an area of subtle design just like most others in architecture, graphic and industrial design: subject to a few core scientific principles, and then otherwise guided by trend and individualistic flourishes.


I had the impression that on Kindle at least, leading or line-spacing was not allowed to publishers – since the reader sets that on her Kindle as she reads. The more-PDF-like Kindle publication must override this, but I wouldn’t advise it for straight fiction as it would add a lot of trouble for no great utility to the reader, unless the author/publisher had a specific look and feel for the book that conveys something extra in tone or mood.

A great source for the topic of look and feel can be found by a guy from Boeing (I think) who created the ‘memoir class’ for LaTeX – google memman.pdf and you can find it. There is a lot of wonky stuff about doing things in the class in LaTeX but there are also a few good chapters on what he thinks makes a book look professional, readable and beautiful.

  • asotir